LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Jennifer Coca

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Sandia Vista Elementary School
School District: Rio Rancho Public Schools
City, State: Rio Rancho, NM

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Jennifer Coca was nominated by her colleague, Reyna Alvarez, who has worked with her for the past school year. It may not seem like a long time, but Alvarez believes it's more than enough time to see all that Ms. Coca brings to the class and her students.

"This year, Jennifer started out as an educational assistant in the room with me," Alvarez said. "The class was split up in late October to help meet the individual needs of each student in a small group. Jennifer applied for the teacher position out of love and desire for the students. She was promoted to the teacher position and has never looked back."

Ms. Coca goes into school with a great attitude and pushes everyone to be their best, both in and out of the classroom. The students she works with have a range of diabilities. She doesn't see these students as having disabilities - she sees their hopes, dreams,and successful futures. The love that she has for students is beyond comparison.

Ms. Coca teaches staff to incorporate the students into all aspects of the school day. Her students interact with their general education peers, are taught to be accountable, and learn how to care for their classmates. They not only learn academics, but they also learn their worth. Ms. Coca teaches them how to love, respect, and be helpful to others. She builds on the love she has for them into academic and personal growth.

Every day, Ms. Coca works to make learning new and fun. She is a strong believer in morality and integrity.

"We always do what's right, no matter who is watching," Alvarez said. "In our classroom, Jennifer teaches the students to be respectful and have manners. She believes in being a great example for the students, advocating for them and teaching them to reach to new heights. This year, the students worked on individual projects. They had a subject that was near and dear to each of them and worked to produce a report on that topic. The students planted basil, strawberries, and purple cone flowers. They learned to work as a community, and as a family."

At the beginning of the year, some of Ms. Coca's students had behavioral challenges. Today, they can work independently and have grown past many of the behaviors they had. Ms. Coca believes that each student matters, and they are all welcome in the class. Her students not only see her as their teacher, but as a mother figure as well. Some students have even mistakenly referred to her as "Mom." 

Ms. Coca is a first year teacher who took on a class that is not traditional.

"She asks for nothing and pushes every day, no matter what," Alvarez said. "I am a better educator for having spent the last year with her. Jennifer believes that every day is a great day, even if some days present more challenges than others. If we aren't making mistakes, we aren't growing. With all of this, Jennifer is also working on taking classes, raising her family of 5, and looking into the future of how to make the Cross-Categorical classroom a room that includes and develops not only academics, but personal growth skills."

Comments (1)

Tana Gonzales Posted over a year ago

I would like to say as a colleague of both Ms. Alvarez and Mrs. Coca I can attest for the above nomination. I couldn't have written this nomination any better! I SECOND THIS NOMINATION.